Sally Brooker Allison sources pieces for her furniture store, she has three
prerequisites: quality, craftsmanship, and a story.
The Zimbabwean-born owner of Absolutely Fabulous loves
discovering the vivid narratives embedded in her unique treasures, searching
for classic furnishings with a twist. For Sally, it is a lifelong passion, one
borne of her love for travel and eye for style.
is my passion. I studied fine art, so I’ve always had an interest in this,”
says Sally, who took over the business in April 2010. “It’s not about trends or
keeping up with the Joneses, it’s about quality and craftsmanship. Each piece
has a story.”
love for the exotic is central to the Absolutely Fabulous ethos. She spends
approximately six weeks a year on the road, visiting destinations as far flung
as Germany and India in the search for distinct, one-of-a-kind furnishings.
Sally believes her African heritage has influenced the new direction of the
store, which, under its previous owner, predominantly focused on South-East
brought in a lot of stuff from Zimbabwe and South Africa. I think I’ve tapped
into a market that hasn’t existed in Cayman. My pieces are from India, Africa,
Germany and Asia. I want to have a worldwide view,” Sally explains.
travel to these places to source the products. It’s the fun part of my job. We
set up the relationship first with the dealer, then they send samples, and then
we travel to the places to make sure everything is right. It’s about building
that relationship and ensuring the quality of the piece.”
Sally is happy to traverse the globe in pursuit of unique finds, she admits her
favourite place to visit is Zimbabwe, where she can reconnect with family and
friends. But, it’s not all play and no work. Absolutely Fabulous imports a
number of Zimbabwe-based furniture lines, which enables Sally to support her former
colleagues and illustrate the incredible potential of African handicrafts.
of people who I used to work with have had bad experiences and no-one has been
able to see their work because of the political circumstances [in Zimbabwe],”
Sally says, referring to Robert Mugabe’s incumbent ZANU-PF regime. “I love being able to know that their work is
going to be exported and we can help support them. Zimbabwe has some of the
most talented artists but many of them will never be realised because of the
Zimbabwe, Sally has introduced furniture constructed from reclaimed railway
sleepers. The sleepers, made of Rhodesian teak, were originally used in the
Cape to Cairo Railway, Cecil Rhodes’ plan to cross the African continent by
rail from Cape Town in the south, to Cairo in the
north, which began in the late 1800s. After more than a century under the
African sun, the sleepers have been refinished and handcrafted into exquisite
pieces for the home.
sleepers glow with the warmth and richness of Africa’s poignant history,” says
Sally. “The furniture is really one-of-a-kind and so heavy, it is almost like
stone. I say one-of-a-kind because eventually these sleepers will come to an
Sally has also secured Carrol Boyes from South Africa, a
line she describes as “functional art”. The namesake range, inspired by the
rich culture of Africa, features stunning furnishings crafted from stainless
steel, pewter, and aluminium. While Sally was attracted by Carrol Boyes’
striking aesthetic, she is also inspired by the designer’s commitment to her
employees and the local community.
the most memorable trips I have taken was to the Carrol Boyes factory, on the
border of Zimbabwe and South Africa,” Sally says. “[Carrol Boyes] just gives so
much back to the community. She employs 400 people, and with every person she
employs, she supports 10 members of their family. You just don’t find people
willing to do that.”
Sustainability is a cause Sally is passionate about. To
this end, Absolutely Fabulous’ mainstay range is Old Java, an Indonesian-based
line that features aged teak sourced from remote villages on the island of
Java. Old Java uses new and old technology to create the distinctive pieces.
The teak is dried in a kiln before it is assembled by machine. Skilled
artisans, specialising in carpentry, leather and weaving, then finish each
piece by hand using techniques passed down from generation to generation. The result is furniture that is both visually
stunning and eco-friendly.
Sally’s commitment to the environment does not end there. In April 2010,
Absolutely Fabulous has partnered with Trees4Trees, a non-profit foundation
also based in Indonesia that empowers local communities through reforestation
initiatives and education programmes. The organisation distributes free
seedlings of species commonly used in commercial furniture manufacturing, such
as mahogany, mango, teak and pine.
pieces that aren’t made cheaply, so trees are not just cut down without a
thought,” Sally says. “That’s something I’m very passionate about. [In the
furniture business] you see so many pieces that are made from really young wood
that has just been cut down without any thought of reforestation. You can buy
these pieces from the side of the road in Asia.
joined with Trees4Trees because they give back to the community. People aren’t
just cutting down trees without any thought to sustainability.”
Sally, helping a customer find the right furniture for their home is her
favourite part of the job. She loves knowing that these unique pieces will
bring joy to the owner for years to come.
“Some people are interested
in the stories behind the pieces, others aren’t so much,” Sally says. “[I
think] my pieces are truly breathtaking and last forever. It is so nice to see
a customer’s face when they’re found a piece they love.”
I’ve joined with
Trees4Trees because they give back to the community. People aren’t just cutting
down trees without any thought to sustainability